NZBF: One or two brood boxes, Honey flow, when to super and collateral damage.

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24
23
Wellsford
Experience
Beginner
Supers are filling up fast. After placing a super to reduce congestion and try to avoid a swarm back in October it was filling slowly but put a second last week and it is filling fast. Just put a second on Hive 2 with old queen and half original hive. Both are building and working well. I read in Practical Beekeeping that it is normally two brood boxes. I am working with one. Is there a normal? I'm guessing two brood boxes you just have more bees and more supers therefore more honey? Just curious.
So when supers are about 75% full put a second underneath and just keep adding when they fill? After todays inspection I was surprised at how fast this is happening.
When I first started out here I was trying not to harm one bee but it is becoming evident this is not possible. I'm guessing (again) collateral damage is a normal process of the bee death rate? I clean the tops and bottoms of frames, the lid and queen excluder of wax on each inspection - is this good practice?
 

Alastair

Founder Member
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Auckland
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One or two brood boxes is just a management choice, you do manage them different but just go with whatever you prefer.

As to further supering, what I do is if it's a strong flow just add more, and I'll go underneath the bottom honey super if I got the energy to lift the others off. When it's getting towards the end of the flow I only super on top. That way if the flow dies the bees won't fill it, rather than if it was under there's a bunch of 1/2 full supers to extract, more work for the same amount of honey.

And yes, just got to accept you going to squish a few bees. Don't like it, try to minimise, but some squishes are inevitable
 
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24
23
Wellsford
Experience
Beginner
Thanks Alastair, Yes putting new supers under full ones. I'm using 3/4 and am surprised by the weight. Full supers must be back breaking. How often should you check the supers and do you still do full check on brood boxes every 10 days or so?

The local club has been out of action from the covid lockdowns so not getting any advice there for the moment.
 

Alastair

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Auckland
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How often to check the supers is a judgement call. After the first season a beekeeper has a rough idea how things play out at a site and how often they need to check.
Re swarming, swarm season is pretty much over where you are although an occasional hive might swarm, but you could probably get away now with forgetting about the brood nest, until it's honey harvest time when an AFB check should be done.
 
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352
264
Mid Canterbury
Experience
Semi Commercial
I read in Practical Beekeeping that it is normally two brood boxes. I am working with one
1 or 2 brood boxes is a management decision that varies in different parts of the climate; generally taking into weather, pollen and nectar sources, pollination contracts. If you are only using 1 x 3/4 depth brood box, you might have difficulty with it swarming. When the honey is taken off later in the season, with increased space for the bees, you will definitely need to be aware of swarming. 1 x 3/4 brood box may not give you enough young bees in autumn to get you thru the winter. To survive winter, the colony must go into winter with young bees in the hive.
 
352
264
Mid Canterbury
Experience
Semi Commercial
I read in Practical Beekeeping
Good on you Stephen for reading this NZ book. Unfortunately, nowadays, so many beginner beekeepers think they can learn everything on the net, and they become dependent on Google, less hands on, less analytical. A lot of stuff on the net doesn't pertain to NZ (practises might be illegal or not appropriate for NZ conditions). You could visit Trevs Bees online. When the local Club gets going again, it's a good idea to join, and maybe you would be able to buddy up with someone at the same level you are, and the two of you could "grow together". Some hobbyist bee clubs post Covid have become quite active digitally.
 

Alastair

Founder Member
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Auckland
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Semi Commercial
Yes. If using 3/4 boxes, just one for the brood nest is not really enough.
I have seen it done by a commercial beekeeper but I don't think the hives were as good as they could have been.

Swarming is normally late spring, little to zero after the autumn honey harvest.
 

Alastair

Founder Member
Platinum
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Auckland
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Semi Commercial
The OP is in Wellsford, where I too have bees and never had an after honey harvest swarm. Which area were you thinking maggie?
 
24
23
Wellsford
Experience
Beginner
refer to my previous post - I had a swarm and managed to capture it but it disappeared about a week later after being in a 3/4 brood box. The whole process was a steep learning curve - the end result is I now have 2 very robust hives. I removed the old queen into a 5 frame nuc after seeing hatched queen cells in H1. H1 swarmed a week later so went from a beginner with one hive to 3 hives. One brood box and two supers on each as of yesterday. I did a full check of all boxes and all looks good.
I did read you can harvest in stages. I don't have any equipment yet and again it's all new to me! Hi has an almost full super not fully capped yet.
 

Alastair

Founder Member
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8,353
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Auckland
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My nearest bees to you would have been Wharahine although i moved them out 3 years ago. Honey from those tested zero for tutin. Other than that I currently have bees to the east of you, other side of the state highway, they also test zero for tutin. Haven't seen any tutu in the area you are probably good.
Nearest tutu I have seen was in bush at Moirs Hill, honey from those bees also tested zero though.
 
51
35
Russia
Experience
International
Good on you Stephen for reading this NZ book. Unfortunately, nowadays, so many beginner beekeepers think they can learn everything on the net, and they become dependent on Google, less hands on, less analytical. A lot of stuff on the net doesn't pertain to NZ (practises might be illegal or not appropriate for NZ conditions).
And what can be forbidden in beekeeping techniques? What I like about beekeeping is that you assemble your beekeeping technique like a lego set of different parts. For example, I can bring out queens of bees in 6-7 different ways. (with a starter, without it, with a queen in the hive, without her, or a combined version, etc.) And depending on the weather conditions and the state of the colonies, I use different options. Why do you think that people who study on the Internet lose their independence and ability to analyze. The more different options you have, the easier it is for the brain to draw its own conclusions. Of course, this is a trial-and-error method, but that's actually how people learn. And I studied the same thing on YouTube. And not necessarily the method that you officially use is the most successful and correct. This, of course, is only my opinion.
 
3,483
6,499
Hawkes Bay
Experience
Commercial
I am a big fan of two full depth brood boxes or their equivalent but there are many that would disagree with me. As far as honey supers go it depends so much on what's happening but in general I put a third box on (first honey super) whenever the bees are strong enough normally around here sometime in October and I put the fourth on when I'm fairly confident they won't need feeding again and this can be as early as late October and as late as mid December. When bees are on a heavy flow they need a lot of room to mature nectar and they will often fill two full depth honey supers as fast as they would fill one. A few years ago I was desperate for some comb honey for my farmers market stall so I put some comb honey boxes on as a third box just to see what would happen and they filled up slower than the four-storey hives next door which also had comb honey on but as a fourth box. I normally start taking off honey between Christmas and New Year but that varies every year. Once I take the first crop off (if I get a first crop) then unless prospects are amazing I run the hives with only one honey super after that.
At the start of the season it's best on average to give the bees plenty of room. As the season progresses and you get towards the end you get more honey if you cram the hives down a bit and also ensure they have plenty of stores for winter. Hives in urban situations generally don't suffer from a lack of honey flow like rural hives can but they also tend not to get a heavy honey flow and it just seems to continuously trickle in. Hives in this situation probably have no need for a second honey super as long as they are removed and replaced when they are full.
If you do end up in a situation where you have a heavy autumn flow such as we used to get from nodding Thistle then you have to be very careful that the hives don't cram down to nothing with nowhere left to breed, they are also very reluctant to draw foundation once you get past the first couple weeks of January. The beekeeper has to learn to react to what is happening and make the best decisions for the time. You won't always get it right because you can't look into the future.
I went checking hives the other day and in some areas they were already cramming down and restricting the brood nest but not that interested in storing honey above the excluder and in others they were three quarters full in the fourth box and hardly had a cell of honey in the two brood boxes. Next time I go out they may be the complete opposite. I suspect it's somewhat easier keeping bees in countries that have proper seasons.
 
27
28
UK
Experience
International
If the queen doesn't have enough room to lay in one brood box, then you are restricting the potential size of the colony and therefore it's honey-producing capacity. You are also more likely to get swarming due to congestion. Also remember that in a good honey flow, bees will bring in and dump the honey anywhere - including where brood should be; so having plenty of space at this time is good. In spring, here in the UK, I add a second brood box once there's 8 frames of brood (from the available 11 frames) as I know the colony will continue to expand. (Consider my weather similar to Wellington but without so much wind). With a large brood area available, you will perhaps not be able to extract all the honey as some will be in brood frames however that gives a buffer for periods of poor weather/forage and 2 brood boxes works for some colonies for over-wintering as there's plenty of stores for them. You can also put old frames "downstairs" and to the sides later in the year with a 2 brood box hive, so that in spring they will most likely be empty and can be removed.
 

Josh

Gold
946
692
Christchurch
Experience
Hobbyist
Supers are filling up fast. After placing a super to reduce congestion and try to avoid a swarm back in October it was filling slowly but put a second last week and it is filling fast. Just put a second on Hive 2 with old queen and half original hive. Both are building and working well. I read in Practical Beekeeping that it is normally two brood boxes. I am working with one. Is there a normal? I'm guessing two brood boxes you just have more bees and more supers therefore more honey? Just curious.
So when supers are about 75% full put a second underneath and just keep adding when they fill? After todays inspection I was surprised at how fast this is happening.
When I first started out here I was trying not to harm one bee but it is becoming evident this is not possible. I'm guessing (again) collateral damage is a normal process of the bee death rate? I clean the tops and bottoms of frames, the lid and queen excluder of wax on each inspection - is this good practice?
My newbeek tip… ask each question in a seperate thread. Makes teasing out the advice much easier.
 


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